Military customs, some of which are centuries old, during burial of a former member of the armed forces have great symbolic significance and are ways of showing honor to these men and women.
The custom of draping the casket with the national flag dates back to the Napoleonic Wars when a flag was used to cover the dead who were being removed from the field of battle. The flag is not allowed to touch the ground and is not placed in the grave. At the end of the funeral, the flag is removed and folded by the honor guard into triangular form. The highest-ranking officer then presents it to the spouse or next of kin.
The use of three rifle volleys originated from the custom of halting warfare to remove the dead from the battlefield. After each side had cleared its dead, a firing party consisting of seven riflemen would each fire three volleys to signify that the dead had been cared for. At a funeral, this is another sign of respect for a soldier's contribution to the military.
"Taps" was composed during the Civil War and was used to signal lights out and time to sleep. The call was later incorporated into funerals as the call to the lasting sleep for soldiers.
Military honors at burial are provided to recognize deceased members of the Armed Forces who have honorably served our country. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2000 says that the U.S. Armed Forces must provide the rendering of honors at a military funeral for any eligible veteran if requested. This includes an honor guard of no less than two members of the Armed Forces, with one member of the detail a representative of the armed service branch of the deceased veteran. At a minimum, the honor guard must perform a ceremony that includes the folding and presenting of the flag of the United States to the next of kin and the playing of "Taps" by a lone bugler if available.